Alone in the Dark II (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Rick Yune, Rachel Specter, Bill Moseley, Ralf Moeller, Zack Ward, Natassia Malthe, Michael Pare, Jason Connery, P.J. Soles, Danny Trejo, Lance Henriksen
Written & Directed by Peter Scheerer and Michael Roesch
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, will that stop Uwe Boll from making a sequel to it? Obviously not, as evidenced by the very existence of Alone in the Dark II.
Uwe Boll only serves as a producer this time. The creative reigns have been handed over to writing/directing duo Peter Scheerer and Michael Roesch, scripters of the first Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead 2, and Boll's upcoming Far Cry, as well as the makers of the recently released vampire flick Brotherhood of Blood (review). The two pretty much owe their careers to Uwe Boll and judging by their work on Alone in the Dark II, the apples haven't fallen very far from the tree.
Alone in the Dark II is a bad movie. Bad writing, bad acting, bad pacing ... the lighting is good though; I will give them that. They manage to generate some atmosphere even as they fail to generate any thrills or chills. The mindless action-oriented nature of Boll's film has been replaced with a failed stab at something more horrific, albeit sprinkled with a few rounds of gratuitous gunfire typically aimed at an off-camera presence. Even most of the deaths take place off-camera. The first ten minutes had me thinking it might not be too bad. Then it fell into a quagmire of tedium before giving me a few mild chuckles with its insipid climax.
The pointless plot somehow manages to be far more coherent than the gobbledygook original yet never rose above the level of gobbledygook nonetheless. No apocalypse this time; just this evil witch pissed off at this particular family bloodline. A group of modern witch hunters are trying to destroy her, there's a young woman meant to be sacrificed to the witch now that she's reached the proper age, and at the center of it all is a magical dagger that is both the cause and solution to the witch problem. The plot mechanics are so simple-minded the story could have easily been reworked into a sequel to Sarah Landon & the Paranormal Hour. But there's still this disconnect; the explanations behind the who's, how's, and why's are so impalpably shallow it left me slightly bewildered (but mostly disinterested).
A big part of the problem is this evil witch is such a lame nemesis it left me longing for those four-legged demon monsters from the first film. Sometimes unseen, sometimes in the form of a swishy, swooping, light and fog, CGI phantasm, and later in her physical form as a pale woman with a blood-scarred face wearing a black cloak who I swear could have been revealed to be the wife of the similar looking villain from House of the Dead and I'd have bought it. Both even enjoyed silently glaring at others from a short distance behind trees.
There's this cursed dagger that if you touch it you'll get infected with these painful, disfiguring wounds that react to light. These are the witch's mark. Once infected she can get into your head and cause dream-like hallucinations, forcing you to do her bidding or else she'll come kill you. She can't come kill you unless you look into a mirror in these visions; doing so reveals your location to her. You could make a drinking game out of every time someone yells some variation of "She's coming!"
Stopping her requires finding the location of the witch's lab. Yes, lab. The witch has a lab. Not a lair - a lab! But when they find the "lab" it turns out to be a lair with mechanical doors. Is this a reference to the video games? I'm guessing no. It certainly has no correlation to the first Alone in the Dark movie aside from the title and the return of main character Edward Carnby.
Scheerer and Roesch appeared to have been working under the assumption that everyone watching already knows who Edward Carnby is. Their failure to define his character led to some truly befuddling dialogue. "He's an idealist. He's the worst." So says another witch hunter, more than once, about Carnby's meddling in their affairs. What the hell was that even supposed to mean? Carnby argues with that same character later on, "I know who I am." Huh? I don't. You feel like sharing? I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that his character has no personality and no motivations. He's just there for the sake of being there because Edward Carnby's supposed to be the franchise's main character.
Whatever the hell that was that happened at the end of the first film must have turned him Asian. The Fast & The Furious' Rick Yune has been cast in the role of Edward Carnby, a role originated by Christian Slater. That actually caused some initial confusion on my part. He meets with another character in his very first scene, the name Carnby is muttered, and I naturally assumed it was in relation to the white guy. Took me about ten more minutes before it truly sunk in that Yune was supposed to be Edward Carnby. I can forgive that casting quirk more than I can forgive Yune's acting (or lack thereof). The man has negative charisma. I've seen matte paintings display more personality. He'll suffer a near fatal stab wound to the stomach early in and just sit there looking like a guy who just woke up with a serious hangover trying to remember what he did the night before.
Doesn't matter much anyway since even Carnby takes a backseat to the cute but unconvincing damsel-in-distress (the chirpy voiced Rachel Specter) as her role gradually overshadows everyone else's. Her pairing with Yune left me longing for some of that magical Christian Slater/Tara Reid chemistry. They were Bogey and Bacall compared to these two.
The rest of the cast is composed of enough recognizable genre faces to stock a horror movie convention. So many actors who've appeared in previous Uwe Boll movies pop up in this sequel an alternate title could have been It’s a Boll, Boll, Boll, Boll World.
Boll alumni Michael Pare (Seed), Natassia Malthe (BloodRayne II: Deliverance), and Zack Ward (Postal) all appear just long enough to get killed before the pre-title sequence. Actually, Ward gets to live a few minutes longer. Ralf Moeller (Seed) then arrives in a nothing role to do what he does best: hold a weapon, smoke cigars, and appear really buff and gruff.
You also have the likes of Bill Moseley, looking like an Amish redneck, as the witch hunter whose daughter the witch is after. This will not go down as one of Moseley's acting career highlights.
Lance Henriksen collects his usual paycheck as a crotchety retired witch hunter who should have been named "Mr. Fill-in-the-Blanks" since his part existed primarily to try and explain numerous aspects of the plot. He's also the only person who can handle the dagger unscathed because, as he puts it, he's immune to "witchcraft crap”. Given some of the movies Henriksen has appeared in, I'd argue he's immune to all sorts of crap. He's definitely immune to gunshots judging by the point-blank rifle blasts to the face and leg he takes during the dumb finale that not only don't kill him, they don't even stop him from talking or hobbling away. And to think this man once lost out on the role of The Terminator to Schwarzenegger.
Danny Trejo's appearance is so blink-and-you-missed-it that I wonder if he just happened to be carpooling with one of the other actors and one day on the set they offered him a few bucks, gave him a shotgun, and had him appear in the background of a scene or two.
P.J. Soles ... I guess I blinked and missed it (editor's note: She plays Henriksen's wife for about 2 seconds).
Blink and miss Alone in the Dark II while you’re at it. There's really nothing to see here. It doesn't even have the epic train wreck quality of Boll's original. It's just a plain ol' bad movie.
1 1/2 out of 5
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